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Bayard Rustin, a civil rights hero you should know about (and probably don’t)

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Some fascinating history of an oft forgotten, and intentionally ignored, gay African-American civil rights activist who was a top aide to MLK. From Tico Almeida, writing in Metro Weekly:

Almost three decades before Stonewall, a gay African-American man named Bayard Rustin organized a 1941 March on Washington so successful that it never even took place. Exactly 70 years ago this month, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the executive order barring military contractors from discriminating against African-American workers. His signature was conditioned upon a promise from civil rights leaders that they would cancel the massive march that Rustin and others had planned for July 1941.
Rustin, however, was not invited to that White House meeting, even though he was among the lead organizers of the march. Sadly, Rustin faced discrimination because of his sexual orientation throughout his career. His bigoted enemies, from Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) to Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-N.Y.), repeatedly tried to use his sexual orientation to discredit his leadership. Rustin was regularly purged by other African-American leaders from important meetings or public appearances out of prejudice or fear that his homosexuality would distract from the civil rights movement.

John D'Emilio's biography of Rustin is titled Lost Prophet, because Rustin's legacy is largely unknown despite his masterful work as movement strategist. Rustin not only helped plan the 1941 almost-march that led to Roosevelt's historic executive order, he also organized the first of the Freedom Rides and served as chief logistical strategist for the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his ''I Have a Dream'' speech.

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